The construction material exports should be promoted, director of the Department of Construction Materials Le Van Toi told Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times).

*Could you give us an overview of the consumption of construction materials in Vietnam recently?

The construction material market has been warming up recently, but a lot of challenges remain.

Sales of cement domestically and internationally in the first seven months of 2014 were over 37 million tonnes - an increase of 8 percent compared to the same period last year.

Consumption of other building materials, including tiles of different categories, glasses and toilet ceramics, is also on the rise. As a result, their inventory has been considerably reduced.

I think that we should concentrate more on exports, as our products have won customers' favour in the international market for their good quality.

*Do you mean that we have potential for export but have yet tapped it?

As I said above, our building materials are high quality and meet all conditions to penetrate the international market. However, to do this we need support from the government to carry out market research in Africa, America and the Middle East.

*Many people say the main thing preventing Vietnamese products from penetrating foreign markets is their weak competitive advantage. What's your position on this?

Generally speaking, we are on the right track in export activities. It has helped to increase our foreign currency while maintaining sustainable production and business.

Though we have gained an international market niche for our construction materials, their added value remains very modest compared to other commodities.

I have to concede that our products are not diverse and many of them have to go through mediators. These are the key factors affecting the prices of our products and reducing their competitive advantage.

Our building materials producers face many challenges, including export tariffs, market promotion and transportation while trying to penetrate markets in Western Europe, Russia and the US.
*What should we do to solve this problem?

Recently, construction material enterprises met and came up with a proposal asking the government to introduce a policy on commercial protection, anti-dumping and unhealthy competition to enable Vietnamese enterprises to compete with foreign enterprises on a level playing field.

However, in the long run, building materials associations should be more proactive. They should establish their own network and cooperate to penetrate major markets.

All in all, Vietnamese enterprises should make efforts to improve the quality of their products and launch campaigns calling on Vietnamese to use Vietnamese products. These are the core factors for our construction materials makers to secure a foothold in the domestic market while expanding to high-end markets like the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea and EU member countrie.-VNA